How to accept or help a SO with adult ADD?
February 13, 2012 3:59 PM   Subscribe

The guy I am dating has unusual tendencies, is this a part of his ADD? Or his quirkiness? How should I approach the subject?

I have officially moved on from the previous situation I was in and am very glad I have done so, I have been seeing a therapist and have no contact whatsoever with the last jerk I was dating who was completely not worthy of my time or sympathy. Thank you all for the kick in the pants and all of the support.

That being said, I have been dating a new guy for about a month and a half now. He is the polar opposite of the last guy I was with. He is an extrovert, always talking and chatting. He is openly emotional, affectionate, and isn't afraid to give compliments or receive them. When I first met him, I thought he was confident, composed, and very well-spoken. The well-spoken part is still true it's just the confident and composed that I believe changed for me.

He is almost 25 and only just got his license a year ago and his own car a month ago. He had only had three girlfriends, and was a virgin up until last year. He is dreadfully shaky in intimate situations, is high strung, and will obsess over bad luck occurrences for hours and days. He is nervous very easily. His family has quite a bit of money and mine does not, which can sometimes cause friction between us because I have had dramatically difference experiences in life than he has. He doesn't understand that families can be dysfunctional. Nor does he understand poverty or people who budget constantly (because they have to or that's all they know how to do to live). He resents his stepmother for limiting his father's spending and hates her budgeting (even though it is more common/negative for women to be gold-diggers which he doesn't seem to acknowledge). At the same time, he is still polite and kind. This I'm sure can change if he is exposed to other people's circumstances and lifestyles. He's a college graduate which I can respect and he's looking for his first degree-level job. He was also a good student in college and vice president of a fraternity. There are just some things I have noticed though...

*When we go out to eat, he may forget to order a drink with his meal, or when he buys drinks at a casual restaurant he walks off before the cups are given to us... or when we go to Chipotle and just starting off in the line he mistakenly tells the girl when she asks him what he'd like... he says he'd like a medium drink (happened twice), not a burrito or tacos or whatever.

*He almost ran a red light just talking to me while driving, then a little after that a stop sign.

*We went to pick up a pizza after one of his first times coming out to visit me and he asked, just after we had left, if he needed to turn back into the pizza place's parking lot to go back to my house even though we had just been there.

*He was leaving my house after a snow storm and his windshield was covered in ice and snow so given a scraper, he says he didn't know how to use it and even holds it the wrong way (the handle part, not the flat part). Just seems common sense? Am I wrong?

*He doesn't know how to use his own oven (maybe this is a guy thing?) but put pizza rolls in the oven for 22 hours instead of 22 minutes and doesn't think anything of it when the buzzer doesn't go off.

*He grabbed a bowl of soup my sister had prepared (poured water into) but had not put in the microwave even though he watched her do it.

*We went to another restaurant and he finished ordering all of our food and then when the woman tells us the total... he just pulls out his wallet and hands it to her. ?!

Basically... I don't think this is "normal" and I think he could endanger himself if he doesn't pay attention to what he's doing. Also he has said a few questionable things without thinking which I have read can also be involved with ADD. Additionally, he has been driving as long as I have (since I got my license at 18 a year ago) and I am very comfortable driving while he is terrified of the highway. He says merging is frightening...

I honestly think some of it has been babying on his family's part. He has other people to make him food (his mother), drive him around (his brother, for a long time), so some of it I believe he's been too pampered. While most of it seems to me, to be linked to a very prominent case of ADD. Maybe also some compulsive issues? For instance, he weighed 140 lbs when we started dating. He is 6 feet tall. I weigh 145 and am considered thin.... at 5'4" which is very thin for him, obviously. Apparently he had been that way for nearly 4 years after becoming a serious jogger and severely limiting his calorie intake. His family finally got through to him to start gaining because they feared he was anorexic. Now he is 153 lbs and is still going. He has an extreme fear of being fat even though, upon seeing these "fat" photos, he was not and was not alarmed when he dropped to extreme lows.

How do I approach these concerns? Is this not something I should bring up? I feel like he needs it said to him, though. I do like him, he treats me very well... it's just that something feels amiss.
posted by Chelsaroo650 to Human Relations (71 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What exactly do you like about this guy? A month and a half of this type of behavior would wear me out. If he's been coddled so much that he doesn't know how to use an oven, microwave soup, or scrape ice off a windshield at age 25, I'd let some other woman teach him home ec and get out while it's early.
posted by jabes at 4:05 PM on February 13, 2012 [32 favorites]

He just sounds like a garden variety idiot to me.
posted by cmoj at 4:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [22 favorites]

Could he have social anxiety? I mean, is that something you think is likely? It just seems like he gets really flustered in social situations.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 4:13 PM on February 13, 2012

You have an awfully long list of things this guy does that concern you. Why don't you discuss them with him?
posted by davejay at 4:15 PM on February 13, 2012

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if someone has ADD/ADHD because there are some things common to it and neurotypical people alike. My husband has ADD and he often doesn't notice details, eats things that aren't his (the source of many laughs and aggravation, such as when he swiped someone's kabob at a bring your own meat potluck). Does he hyperfocus on things? That's a big clue there. The website might be helpful too.

If it is ADD/ADHD, you might really have to be prepared to give a lot mentally and emotionally to him. I love my hubs, but it's like living with three people at times.

If it's not ADD/ADHD, hard to say without knowing him. Some people are just a little oddball, forgetful or dreamlike
posted by Calzephyr at 4:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The forgetfullness/spaziness from your bulleted list sound a lot like my experience of ADD. Not knowing how to use the oven is a sign that he was never taught, although not noticing that you're burning something could be an attention issue. And not knowing how to use an ice scraper sounds like something he was also never taught.

From what I read:

1- This guy is mentally distracted spaz, and if you want to be happy with him you probably needs to learn to accept this about him. Some people get more control of their ADD with medication, and that may help him. But meds have different side effects for different people, and may not be an option for him. The meds that work best for me only last for 10-12 hours, for example, so within a few hours of getting home from work I become distraction brain again.

2 - He has led a sheltered life. This colors his inexperience with stuff like understanding people from other backgrounds and using ovens or car scraping tools. These things can change, and should with experience, but in different ways:

a - Learning practical stuff: Don't make fun of him, don't gawp in shock and awe. Just tell him how to use the ice scraper. Tell him how to use the oven. He may have a hard time staying focused on practical stuff thanks to his ADD/ADHD issues, but that dosen't mean he can't learn.

b - Learning about relating to other people: It sounds like he has some learning to do about how other people live in the world. Based on the surprise you yourself are expressing at how people from more privileged backgrounds behave and about how somebody with ADD acts, I'd say you also have a few things to learn about human relations. Why don't you talk about your experiences with an open mind and spend some time listening to what he has to say in return? It's not your job to teach him to live in the world, but the two of you could teach one another and act as students of life together.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:20 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

he just pulls out his wallet and hands it to her. ?!

a lot of your examples sound like garden variety clueless and maybe even something some people would find sort of cute (though you're clearly not into them and want a confident capable dude) but this one is just fucking weird.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:21 PM on February 13, 2012 [12 favorites]

He is not well. Whether that's due to mental illness, weird upbringing, or just his unusual personality, his behavior is not functional adult behavior.

I'd say he doesn't sound ready for an adult relationship. He doesn't have basic life skills and is letting what appears to be mental illness dictate his behavior and choices (the thing with the pizza place, driving anxiety, and his obsession with getting fat).

I'd approach it like this: "There are behaviors and habits you have that most adults don't, and there are skills you lack that most adults have. I think you need (better) treatment for your ADD, and perhaps an assessment for anxiety. There's more to it than that, but I think that's where you should start." Up to you whether you make this a condition of continuing the relationship or tell him to call you when he has his issues better under control, but his current behavior and issues aren't just quirks: they're dysfunctional.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:25 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh man, can I relate. I'd totally give a waitress my wallet (although I haven't). Or use the wrong part of the ice scraper. I don't drive because I know how awful a driver I am. That is some textbook ADHD right there. Ask if he still has his grade school report cards - those will tell you everything you need to know if he does have ADHD. Look for key phrases like "Not performing to his potential."
posted by Yowser at 4:28 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing that strikes me is that all of your examples are of things that seem obvious to most people because they get to practice them quite a bit in their tween/teen years. Stuff like baking, scraping a car window are really things that a sheltered individual can not know how to do. It takes years to learn how to drive safely with distractions like another person in the car. As a society we tend to blame it on being young, but experience is a big part of this.

The question is of course, why does he have the life experience of a sixteen year-old at the age of 25? And why should you put up with it?
posted by meinvt at 4:30 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Really, Meg_Murray? Driving anxiety is pretty normal in the first 1-2 years of having a license. And I don't see why getting confused about which way to turn after picking up pizza is a sign of mental illness. The body issues are a red flag, definitely.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:31 PM on February 13, 2012

He is mentally very young. I would guess this is how he got attention in his family. I think he is probably very afraid and thinks he has no real worth; how can he measure up to his heritage? That's the core of it but you'll never get there. He has made a distracting, intricate mess to bury it under.
posted by fleacircus at 4:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's only been a month and half and you seem less than enchanted with this guy. For that reason alone, I'd move on. He just seems like the beginning of a fixer-upper project, and you can do better. But FWIW, to me his behaviors seem more indicative of someone who's mentally challenged (22 hours to cook pizza rolls, handing over a wallet, can't figure out how to use an ice scraper, doesn't understand that people have different backgrounds).
posted by kinetic at 4:41 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

The "cooking something for 22 hours" and the "handing a waiter or cashier his wallet" sound like some kind of cognitive issues to me. The other stuff could be written off as ordinary absent-mindedness or forgetfulness or having grown up in a sheltered background or inability to express himself verbally, but those two things are beyond bizarre.

Honestly, I would suggest he see someone to be evaluated for neurological issues. That shit is wack. And I say this as someone who is super absent-minded herself, and who used to date some incredibly absent-minded professor types.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:54 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and break up with him. You don't need his issues in your young life.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:55 PM on February 13, 2012

Uh, as someone with a pretty moderate case of ADHD, I've done some of the things on your list or at least been about to before I caught myself. For instance, I now check the stove 3-4 times after I'm done cooking because I've forgotten to turn it off so many times.

ADHD can cause some problems with remembering the order in which to do things, and can also cause some physical clumsiness (ie, the scraper). I also didn't get my drivers license until I was 25, partly because I didn't need it, but partly because driving can be a bit overwhelming to someone with attention issues - there is so damn much to pay attention to!

So yeah, a lot of this sounds like classic ADHD with a heaping portion of "coddled too much." But the important question is, are you willing to deal with this? If you think he's worth it and you want to stay together, then you will have to work with him as he is. He may learn better coping mechanisms (is he being treated?) or he may not. But if you are just completely exasperated and it doesn't seem worth it, then it's totally reasonable to break up.
posted by lunasol at 4:58 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could be anything, but really, making such a laundry list of another person's behavior (justified or not) this early in the game suggests there is no future here.
posted by sm1tten at 5:01 PM on February 13, 2012 [17 favorites]

From what you describe here, he sounds like a young man who doesn't pay attention to what's going on around him because he's never had to -- and if his attention disorder is the root cause of that, then he's not managing that, either.

Get out unless you want to be his new mommy.
posted by trunk muffins at 5:02 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

People have covered most everything I would've said but "Is this a guy thing?" in relation to the oven, no it is not. We are perfectly capable in all situations regardless of what sitcoms tell you. So none of his behavior is down to his "just being a guy".

It's not like people should always flee at the first sign of trouble, but what the fuck is even going on here? How is this guy still alive? 22 hours in the oven for pizza rolls? The entire block's fire alarms should've been going off. He needs actual legitimate help.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:07 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe he's a sheltered idiot, maybe he's nervous, maybe a bunch of things.

If these things bother you, yeah, why not talk with him?

But my hunch is that, as someone said above, you want a guy who's confident and adept. Which isn't this guy. I'm not one to normally say "you just don't sound into him," but I will say it here. It's okay if you don't dig this guy and if you don't want to pursue a relationship.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2012

A woman who was more into him might think it's cute that he gets so nervous and distracted around you, slightly clumsy and disarmingly honest about things he doesn't know. You are not that woman.
posted by Houstonian at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

He's a danger to himself and others. Back away slowly, then RUN.

If you can figure a kind way to suggest he gets help, maybe do that on your way out. But it sounds like his family already knows he's not well, and anyway, this is not your responsibility.
posted by jbenben at 5:17 PM on February 13, 2012

So you finally, totally broke it off with the guy who was incredibly not good for you in, I'm guessing, late November. You've been dating this guy, who you have serious issues with, since the end of December? This is something you probably ought to review with your therapist. Consider the value of cultivating a lot of friendships of medium depth - such that you know whether or not they can cook or drive - before beginning a romantic relationship with any one of your friends.

And yeah, this does sound like ADHD, to a certain extent. You could try saying something like "Boyfriend2, you have a lot of behaviors that kind of worry me. Have you ever been told you have ADHD or something?" This is a fairly low-stress way of suggesting someone go get help.
posted by SMPA at 5:19 PM on February 13, 2012

Are you nuts? Drop this guy and find someone who knows how to take care of himself.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 5:26 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would be very concerned about anybody who thought it was "cute" that someone was cognitively impaired enough to think that the cooking instructions for a frozen meal specified 22 hours rather than 22 minutes. This guy needs help from a professional, not squeeing from a girlfriend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:28 PM on February 13, 2012

Sidhedevil, he probably set the timer for 22 hours... very ADHD.
posted by Yowser at 5:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I read the oven incident as an accident with the oven UI, not a deliberate attempt to set it for a day of cooking. Maybe the oven UI has a little digital clock that said '22:00' and he thought that was 'minutes:seconds' like a microwave. And he didn't notice that it didn't go off after 22 minutes? Neither would I, unless I had had years of experience telling me I need to set an alarm to remind me that the oven is on.
posted by jacalata at 5:34 PM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

Sidhedevil, he probably set the timer for 22 hours... very ADHD.

Oh, that makes more sense! I read it as him making a category mistake that was totally illogical, not him putting pizza rolls in the oven and setting the timer incorrectly and forgetting about it (which I agree is much more reasonable to understand as ADHD or absent-mindedness).

I'm surprised they didn't catch fire after an hour or so, though.

But if it is the category mistake, that's pretty concerning.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:40 PM on February 13, 2012

You seem to be working very hard to come up with explanations/excuses for his behavior: his family dynamics, wealth, "compulsive issues," romantic inexperience, lack of self-confidence, possible ADHD....

Any or all of those things may indeed be causing his abnormal and disturbing behavior, but six weeks into dating, that's really not for you to diagnose or rationalize... or be responsible for.

It's nice that he has some qualities that your ex lacked, but think about the burden that you seem to be taking on just to have access to those very baseline human qualities. From your description, it seems extremely unlikely that this is a relationship that will bring you the joy that you deserve in your life. It may be wise to spend some time investing more of your energy in yourself until you're better able to gauge what a healthy romantic relationship can and should look like for you.
posted by argonauta at 5:45 PM on February 13, 2012

This guy sounds like a nightmare. I would just drop this. Your post doesn't really indicate anything you actually like about him, and If I were in a relationship with someone who acted like this I would get out pronto.
posted by Slinga at 5:58 PM on February 13, 2012

Some of this stuff is kind of understandable, I guess. I mean, if he just got his first car a few months ago, how would he know how to scrape ice off a windshield? I grew up in a part of the world where it virtually never freezes, and guess what? The first time I had to de-ice a windshield I didn't know how and was probably pretty spazzy about it. I think I didn't even have one of those scraper dealies, which BTW, to this day I have no idea how to use.

I've known plenty of people who had undeveloped palates or just weren't really big into food who'd eat cold soup straight out of the can. Also? Guess what. I don't know how to microwave soup. I don't even have a microwave. I heat my soup up on the stove. If I was at someone's house and everyone started microwaving soup, I probably wouldn't know exactly what to do, myself.

On the other hand? It seems like this is all stuff that, as an adult, he should be fairly able to be resilient about. I don't know how to microwave soup or de-ice a windshield, but I hope that if I had to do it in front of someone I would at least by silly/quirky/self-deprecating about it. Which leads me to think that:

A) You're keeping score in a way that seems pretty mean, which implies you're not really into him,


B) He has social anxiety, pathological or otherwise, which prevents him from being cool and resilient about this stuff. And for some reason you just can't deal with this aspect of his personality.

Also - if this is a pathology for him. Know that being with someone who has mental illness is not easy. If you can't be charitable about it now, in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, it's probably not meant to be.
posted by Sara C. at 6:21 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he's never driven before, then sure, merging onto a highway is terrifying. And using an ice scraper the first time can make me pause and use it wrong. And mis-using an oven timer and setting it for 22 hrs instead of 22 minutes is easy, and it's even easier to forget that you put something in the oven, if the timer doesn't go off.

If you like him, and like spending time with him, and want to continue getting to know him, then the only thing that you really need to talk to him about is paying attention while driving - this concerns both your and his safety. Everything else is happening just because he has never had to do all these things on his own. So if you like him and this is the first time in his life he is on his own, then give him a few months to adjust to grown up life. If you are turned off by this behavior already, then break up with him. If you feel like you are his mommy and things aren't improving, then break up with him.
posted by at 7:01 PM on February 13, 2012

Whether it's ADD or not, he sort of has to own that it's not, strictly speaking, normal. My guy is ADD, would have done some of that stuff, and is a fully functioning adult person who is just a lot spacier than I am and that's okay. It's sort of great actually because we complement each other well since I am a tightly wound pain in the ass a lot of the time. YMMV obviously, but yes this could easily be ADD which is a treatable and manageable thing. He could go to the doc and get checked out and maybe take medicine. It might help. It could also be spaciness which is also treatable and manageable if this is something that he wants to change about himself. But only if. He may be fine being how he is.

And part of what might be useful is that the fact that you are there is making some of this worse, I'd bet. Not trying to excuse his behavior, running red lights is not okay, but it may be that whatever system he has to sort of make sure he's not totally spacing on everything gets disrupted when there's a nice person he likes being around. So he gets worse not better because he's focusing on you and not the road.

So, up to you, but it doesn't sound to me like you're into this sort of thing. I really don't mind a lot of the spaciness that my SO has because we find ways, working together, of making sure things don't get problematic. This sometimes means that I'm the person making sure the timer is set right, but whatever, I don't mind and the relationship has a LOT of give and take, it's not just me keeping it all going.
posted by jessamyn at 7:35 PM on February 13, 2012

Independent of what is going on with this fellow, my own thought is that you got into a new relationship way too fast. Maybe if the guy were super cool and was really into you, maybe you could end the dating moratorium early, but he doesn't sound like that guy. Just set him down carefully and slowly back away.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:36 PM on February 13, 2012

This is not ADD/ADHD, nor is it "social anxiety".

This hit it:
>He doesn't have basic life skills
posted by megatherium at 7:44 PM on February 13, 2012

I'm 26.

I'm not allowed to use the oven, because I've set something inside it on fire at least three times, and one of those times it was a blouse because the dryer was broken and I got ideas.

I've run over several mailboxes and hit a garage, so I don't drive. I've lived in NYC for five years, and I still somehow wind up in Brooklyn on accident. There are so many things I just didn't pick up on because I was probably distracted or hyper focused on something random. Some days I go through life feeling like an alien.

I leave things plugged in, forget everything everywhere, and I lose my debit card and keys at least five times a year.

Telling him to pay more attention or focus harder or that he's a distracted mess won't help him. He's probably heard that he's not living up to his potential his entire life. Has he been officially diagnosed with ADHD? Encourage him to see a mental health professional if he hasn't, and also see if there are any support groups for him in the neighborhood. They're great for coming up with little life hacks that make a big difference in quality of life (put the umbrella and your purse on the door knob, make copies of all your keys, and color code everything!).

Anyway, everything you've described is pretty much typical ADHD stuff, even down to the handing his wallet to a waitress (he was probably thinking about something else -- and being nervous doubles the distraction). If he hasn't been taking care of it, then he should start.

The red flags for me are how you feel about his family situation, and his eating disorder. I think there are some issues in there that might be more difficult to deal with than his attention disorder. And honestly if you're having problems just a couple of months in, my rule of thumb is to just bounce.
posted by jnaps at 7:50 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd be hesitant to attribute all of this to ADD. My guy has ADD (un-medicated) and I'd be very surprised if he acted in the ways you're describing. Most of the things you mentioned (especially the background bit about human relations) sound like the complete opposite of him, actually. He has learnt to dealt with the things he doesn't like about ADD remarkably well, and quite honestly, whenever I notice that side of him, it just makes me like him even more.

In my opinion, some of the things you mention sound pretty normal, and I'm surprised you are so concerned. Others sound like they might be typical ADD stuff. Others just sound downright weird and concerning. But more to the point - my opinion, or that of anyone else on metafilter, is not the same as yours! Regardless of whether any of these behaviors on your boyfriend's part are connected to ADD, if they are unacceptable to you in a relationship, then that is what matters. Just because a behavior is "justified" by something diagnosable does not mean that you should disregard what you want or need, or treat it as acceptable in your relationship.

On the other hand, if you are planning to "accept or help" this person as you state in the title, you should know that you can't just go around helping people without accepting them first. Talking about this is a good idea, being understanding is also a good idea, but expecting that you'll be able to change anything fundamental about him is not.

ps. I do that thing with microwave timers all the time.
posted by one little who at 8:36 PM on February 13, 2012

No future, break up.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:46 PM on February 13, 2012

*He almost ran a red light just talking to me while driving, then a little after that a stop sign.

*We went to pick up a pizza after one of his first times coming out to visit me and he asked, just after we had left, if he needed to turn back into the pizza place's parking lot to go back to my house even though we had just been there.

These two things are very typical ADD.

The rest? Um. Something. Else.
posted by desuetude at 10:48 PM on February 13, 2012

A lot of your examples centre around food, plus you mention he has a history of disordered thinking around food. I think they may be related. His other issues may because he is sheltered or he may have mental health issues but regardless of the diagnosis are you ready to accept that this is how he will act for the rest of his life? Are you hoping talking with him will change these behaviours? Do you think he will be successful at his chosen career? How have his past jobs been; I know finding employment is tough at 24 but he has the advantage of a good education and wealthy family connections. I agree he is a "fixer-up", how would you feel about investing your energy into helping him realise his potential only to have someone else then enjoy a healthy relationship with the adult him? Is that time and energy you could put into yourself instead?
posted by saucysault at 5:13 AM on February 14, 2012

This just sounds like garden variety spaciness to me (except for the ice scraper thing- is he from a warm climate or something?). I don't have ADD, and I do stuff like the forgetting to take the drink cup, not microwaving something that needs to be microwaved, ALL THE TIME. Really, none of this seems particularly weird to me. But it doesn't seem like you like this guy all that much. Why don't you try being single for a while?
posted by emd3737 at 5:36 AM on February 14, 2012

While most of it seems to me, to be linked to a very prominent case of ADD. Maybe also some compulsive issues?

Well, yeah, maybe, I suppose? But I think it might be more useful to you to take this one step-by-step. Right now you're going from 'boyfriend has some bizarre behaviour' to 'boyfriend's bizarre behaviour must be a symptom of X and Y conditions' to 'how best can I accept/help an boyfriend with conditions X and Y' - and that's compassionate, yes, but it's also ignoring all sorts of other issues. Phrasing it this way takes all the responsibility off him and puts it onto you.

Right now, it's clear that you think there's a problem. It's not clear that he does. And one very real possibility you have to consider is that for him, this isn't a problem: his coping strategies are the ones he's using right now, and he's totally happy with them.

Take the handing-over-his-wallet example. What happened immediately afterwards? Did he say 'Oops, sorry!', take the wallet back, and hand her some money instead, indicating that he knew what he was supposed to do in that situation but was just distracted? Or did he wait for her to take the money out herself? Because if it's the second one (which I think you were implying, but not sure), that's indicative of a bigger issue, and I can think of a few possible explanations:

a) he's totally unfamiliar with the process of exchanging goods for money in a retail environment, due to growing up somewhere very secluded/sheltered indeed;
b) he has problems with numeracy/literacy to the point where he isn't able to count out the money required, and deals with it by getting someone else to be responsible;
c) he couldn't be bothered to count out the money required, and dealt with it by getting her to be responsible;
d) he wasn't paying attention to the amount she said, and dealt with it by getting her to be responsible;
e) he's never really paid attention to how people go about the process of paying for things in this kind of situation, because while he's been in retail environments before, someone else has always been responsible.

A lot of these rest on the idea of getting other people to be responsible for him, and I think that's a theme through other examples you give, as well. You say yourself he was pampered; it's totally possible that while he does have real difficulty with concentration/focus, the reason he hasn't developed these basic life skills because every time that difficulty arises, someone else swoops in to take the issue out of his hands. Hell, I'd probably never work out how to use an ice scraper either, if holding gadgets by the wrong end and looking puzzled was all I'd ever needed to do before someone else sorted everything out for me. And most importantly, 'taking responsibility for him' is also a theme in how you're approaching this, and you've only been with him for a few months.

So, yeah, I'd bring it up if you want to stay with him. I'm not saying he doesn't have ADD or anxiety problems or an eating disorder or anything else - just that whatever lies at the root cause of his behaviour, it's his job, not yours, to develop coping strategies to manage as an adult with the tools he's got, and it's your job to decide whether you're okay with that.
posted by Catseye at 6:46 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I can easily recognize things that both I and my SO have done in your list - not all of them, but several of the ones you ascribe to ADD/ADHD.

The important question here is not "Are these things, objectively, deal-breakers (to neutral 3rd parties?" but rather "Are these incidents deal-breakers for me?"

It sounds like your answer is YES, or the incidents wouldn't bother you. You, at 19, sound much more experienced in the way of the world than this 25-year-old. For all his extra time on this planet, he is emotionally/mentally younger than you.

It sounds like you want an equal partner in a relationship, and the best part of life is that you can hold out for what you want.

Break up with him now - before you sink more time into this dissatisfying relationship - and hold out for someone who meets your standards.
posted by bookdragoness at 7:04 AM on February 14, 2012

Some of the things on your list are weird, yes, but others - like forgetting to grab your drink cup - that's really an odd thing to have bother you (I constantly walk off without grabbing my drink cup and I'm a mature, responsible, well-adjusted person. I just forget the damn cup and then go back and grab it). While you don't want to ignore red flags when you start dating someone, you also don't want to nitpick and obsess over details which are pretty small and inconsequential in the bigger picture.

In the end, however, it's how much these things bother YOU that defines if they are a deal-breaker.
posted by Windigo at 7:36 AM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm just going to address whether these could be ADHD symptoms. I deal with ADD personally, and have done a good amount of reading on the condition, but I'm no medical expert.

The resentment towards budgeting sounds to me like the attitude he's developed growing up, rather than directly related to ADD. Although poor money management and having a huge problem with budgetting is a common symptom.

The high strung nature and anxiety issues could possibly be related, but not necessarily. Anxiety disorders are often comorbid with ADHD. And sometimes failure stemming from difficulty managing your disorder can lead to a lot of anxiety. It feels sort of like you keep trying and trying, but never getting it right. It can be very frustrating.

Forgetting about drinks or ordering drinks is totally something I would do. I have totally driven away from a drive through window after getting my drink but not my meal before. Recklessness while driving, due to distraction from conversation or the radio or whatever is a common symptom.

Not knowing how to use a scraper just sounds like one of those weird blind spots of common knowledge that we sometimes miss. I think just about everyone has had that moment of "I can't believe I don't know how to do this common thing".

The pizza rolls thing doesn't sound to me less to me like a "doesn't know how to use the oven" and more of a "set the timer wrong and didn't notice it" thing. Personally, once I'm involved or distracted by something else I can easily forget that I have something in the oven or even on the stovetop. I also have a really strange perception of the passage of time, so I might not notice they've been in too long until they've been in way longer than 22 minutes. I manage this be staying in view of the kitchen or oven when I'm making things, and setting lots of timers. That way, if I do something like set the timer wrong, I will notice a funny smell before it becomes a danger.

Everyone has their forgetful times and distractions. What seperates normal attentiveness with disordered attentiveness is the frequency and the interference in the functions of life. From this limited information, ADHD would be worth checking out, because this seems to be a frequent pattern serious forgetfulness and distraction.

Whether or not this pattern of behavior is something that would be good for you in a relationship is something you have to determine. It can be maddening to be in a relationship with someone who has ADHD, I totally understand that. It takes patience and communication, and an understanding that this truly is the way he is wired. Someone with this disorder truly can't help getting distracted. The responsibility of the person with ADD is to find coping mechanisms that work, and to seek help and treatment if it's causing problems. It can be worth it, if both parties are trying in good faith. But it is some extra work. You need to decide, given where you are at and your relationship history, if taking on a relationship that is extra work is a good idea.
posted by f_panda at 8:15 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

In a nutshell, it sounds like he's unmedicated, or at least inadequately medicated. A lot of these behaviours (flakiness, bad driving) would reduce or disappear if he were being properly treated.

You describe him as "pampered" and that may be partly true, but it may also be that his family have been providing him with some assisted living that he actually needs. In the same way that he doesn't understand what it's like to have no money, you seem not to understand what it's like to have a disability. There are empathy insufficiencies on both sides here.

But, you know, also, this: 'On the other hand, if you are planning to "accept or help" this person as you state in the title, you should know that you can't just go around helping people without accepting them first.' Your question seems to be a bit more about whether he can be Pygmalioned into being functional enough to be in a relationship with you, rather than about what help he needs to live well and how you could support him to get it. Because of this I'm not sure continuing the relationship would be very good for either of you.
posted by tel3path at 8:41 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

As someone who has shown her bus pass to her front door instead of using the key more than once, I can attest that some of the things you mention are garden-variety goofs any of us might make when we're tired or distracted. But this guy sounds very young for his age and very insulated.

For a time, a co-worker's nephew stayed with me during the week when he was doing work experience at our office. He was a nice kid (early twenties), but he had no common sense at all.

He would leave the bath running and go to his room and play music and forget about it. He made toast under the grill and forgot to turn it off, so the gas jets burned all night and made smoky marks on the kitchen ceiling. And he was pathologically incapable of closing a door all the way, so my cat got out more than once.

He had grown up a bit posh and pampered in a nice house in the country, so the big city was a scary place to him -- so he retreated a little into childlike, helpless behavior and even outright stupidity.

I think your new boyfriend isn't ready for prime time, according to your description. If you want to stick it out with him, be prepared to do a whole lot of organizing his life.
posted by vickyverky at 9:51 AM on February 14, 2012

Most people with ADHD underfunction socially and emotionally to about two-thirds their actual age. If he seems behaviourally young to you, it's probably because he is. He probably has the ability to function in the world at the same level expected of a nondisabled 16 or 17-year-old.

People (including ourselves) usually think less of us for this, but it will remain what it is.
posted by tel3path at 10:05 AM on February 14, 2012

This guy is mentally distracted spaz

'Spaz'? Really?

I am dyspraxic, and I don't drive for a reason. I frequently forget that something is hot seconds after it comes out of the oven, and I also have a tendency, when getting a hot and a cold drink at once, to put the cold water on the teabag and the hot in the drinking glass. For example, I don't know what 'He grabbed a bowl of soup my sister had prepared (poured water into) but had not put in the microwave even though he watched her do it.' means - is it possible that this is just some weird kind of packaged soup that he had never seen? You pour boiling water on a dry soup mix where I am, and maybe where he is too.

However, you don't say that he has any kind of learning difficulty or, my other thought, that he takes medication of some kind. (I do, and I can forget things five seconds after being told.) He doesn't sound socially inept given that he held a position at a fraternity, which I understand are social organisations. So either he's led a very sheltered life, or there's stuff going on which he hasn't told you yet. The question you're asking isn't what, but whether you should bother figuring it out. That's telling.
posted by mippy at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2012

Response by poster: Well apparently there have been a few critical comments of me not being empathetic enough towards him. He was officially diagnosed in high school and is currently unmedicated. Yes, it does make me frustrated. Partly because I don't know what adults with ADD are like, partly because he has said some things that altered my initially positive views of him.

He made a very unfunny joke about my car being the cheapest on the lot and flaunts his $20,000 car (that he doesn't pay for). Upon meeting my little sister for the first time, he said that she needed to lose a few. Those things angered me. I told him something about how I grew up with a schizophrenic parent and I said I usually don't tell people this kind of thing and he says "Oh it's okay, you were just telling me a funny story." It was the story of one of the saddest times of my childhood, NOT funny. Basically, he would say callous things nonchalantly. I think that's when I started to become less sympathetic and more WTF?

I also have trouble around his family, they are lazy. They have maids, even though they're home all the time. His father I'm positive has never had to look for a job because his father left behind a legacy he benefited from. They never struggled. Yet I look at my family, my oldest sister can't get into medical school because she is too busy working to support herself. My parents were working class. We are all intelligent but apparently the only thing that you need is luck and a rich grandfather. They go on useless trips, he wears a Gucci jacket... and everybody MUST know it's Gucci. This is simply annoying. Period. I don't think I have to explain to anybody why that is when I work and work and work and they don't have to and never did. It did become hard to be sympathetic when there are things staring you in the face that upset you. I have never been around people with wealth. I don't think I like it. I don't want to be them, I just think it's unfair. Living comfortably is one thing, being excessive is another and I don't ever strive to be excessive. I want to be stable, like I never was and just seeing that kind of life makes me angry. His bias and attitude makes me angry, too. That's the truth. I don't know how to overcome this or even explain it to him.

Sexually, there is nothing. He kind of, well, doesn't work down there. When he is on top of me.... his bones are protruding and they stab me. I feel terrible because I see the things in him that are concerning and I want to help, but I'm torn in the other direction when I see the things that make me angry.
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This relationship sounds totally unrewarding and useless to you. The world is full of quirky and interesting people who are ALSO good partners and who work "down there" and I'd suggest trying to meet one of them instead of spending a lot of time repairing a broken person who you don't seem to like very much.
posted by jessamyn at 11:09 AM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

What Jessamyn said. This guy sounds like a fixer-upper, to say the least. And while fixer-uppers can make great houses, they inevitably make terrible relationships. It sounds like you are getting much more pain than pleasure from this relationship. And it sounds also like you are sexually turned off, so there isn't even "but the sex is so great!" bait.

And keep in mind that if you get serious about someone, their family becomes part of your lives (unless your partner is orphaned or estranged). While plenty of people have issues with their in-laws or partner's family, it makes it MUCH easier if you can at least respect them and feel civil towards them. What if you're always comparing his family to yours, and brooding about how your family had it hard while his had it easy due to dumb luck and an inheritance?

My $.02 is to do some deep self-examination, with the help of therapy. Why do you feel you need to date fixer-uppers? Is there something stopping you from liking healthy, normal, "move-in-condition" boyfriends? True, no-one is perfect and everyone has some flaws and issues, but you shouldn't 1) have to put up with shabby treatment or 2) be a mommy/caregiver to a man instead of a true partner. Is it possible you believe - consciously or not - that YOU are too flawed and broken and need to settle for a "fixer?" That the only way you will keep a man around is by mommy-ing a broken bird?

You don't have to settle for a fixer or a broken bird.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:17 AM on February 14, 2012

P.S. I'm not saying that everyone with ADHD or a disability is a "fixer." Far from it. But there's a huge difference between someone who has their condition under control and is self-aware, and someone who is out of control and can't operate as an equal in a relationship.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:19 AM on February 14, 2012

It sounds like the two of you mutually have issues around class, money, and background stuff. This can be a relationship-killer whether there are mental health issues involved or not, no matter how great both people are.

It seems like you're asking us for permission to dump him.

I hereby give you permission.
posted by Sara C. at 12:01 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

It also sounds, frankly, like you are a bit jealous and bitter over his luck to be born into a family that is very well off. That's not fair to him, as he is no more responsible for his lot in life than you are.

It just doesn't sound like you're happy with him.
posted by Windigo at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What I'm battling myself over is why don't I like him? He thinks I'm perfect, already says he loves me, takes me out, and compliments me... but yet I'm put off. Maybe I am jealous and bitter but I am aware of wealthy people, he seems unaware of people who work to live. I try to be okay and happy but for some reason when he wants to cuddle and kiss... I can't wait for it to end but feel guilty for feeling this way and I don't know why I even do...
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 12:14 PM on February 14, 2012

I don't quite understand. It seems like the reasons you dislike him have nothing to do with his ADD. So why even bring the ADD into it?

Either way, you don't like him. Just break up with him.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2012

You aren't under any obligation to like him just because he's a nice guy. Please don't feel you have to stay with a man out of duty and because he loves you. Feel free to break up with him. Do it kindly, but please, please, don't feel you have to have a "reason." You don't.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:20 PM on February 14, 2012

The way you describe him, it sounds like you were assigned a boyfriend at random by the Department of Relationships and don't realize that accepting and keeping him is actually optional. All of these problems might be fixable if you loved him and you guys had a lot in common, and if the bad/weird things were offset by many other, positive things. But all I see is a list of incompatibilities.

What I'm battling myself over is why don't I like him? He thinks I'm perfect, already says he loves me, takes me out, and compliments me... but yet I'm put off.

You don't like him because it doesn't (or shouldn't) work like that. His liking you does not (or should not) flip a switch in your mind to make you like him back.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:32 PM on February 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


First of all, don't let people you do not like touch you. EVER. It's bad for your self esteem.


The reason you don't like this fellow when he's nice to you and says he loves you is because (a) you're just not keen on him, and (b) he seems to have some sort of mental deficiencies such that you KNOW you can't really believe in him.

Look. I don't know why you keep undervaluing your comfort, safety, and well-being - but it's what you are doing. Please stop that! Make rules for yourself, pay attention to your gut.

Rule #1 should be:

"If a person, place, or thing makes me uncomfortable, I'm allowed to say "no thank you," and immediately move myself away from uncomfortable person/place/thing. I'm in charge of my life!"
posted by jbenben at 12:32 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

why don't I like him?

Love doesn't work that way.
posted by Sara C. at 12:39 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

why don't I like him?

Because, sweetheart, he's a bit of a douche. In your words:

--he wears a Gucci jacket... and everybody MUST know it's Gucci
--Upon meeting my little sister for the first time, he said that she needed to lose a few
--He made a very unfunny joke about my car being the cheapest on the lot
--Sexually, there is nothing. He kind of, well, doesn't work down there.

We give you permission to dump this loser. You can do so much better!
posted by jabes at 12:48 PM on February 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

It sounds like you absolutely despise him. This isn't a criticism, just an observation. You make an excellent case for his being despicable.

I think my college friends looked down one, not because they were mean, but because it was a way to get what little enjoyment there was to be had out of knowing me.

Is it possible that you are dating him because you want someone to look down on? I am in no way being sarcastic and a lot of couples seem to be formed for this purpose. Could you be one of those? Perhaps I have you all wrong and if so, please eat that message and forget it.

Otherwise, it doesn't seem like you want anything but permission to break up with him, and the World Breakup Council grants you permission.
posted by tel3path at 1:54 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was your age, here's the stuff I didn't know:

- if you don't like someone, you don't have to stay with them
- if someone doesn't treat you with respect, return your calls or attempt to meet you sexually, then they do not love you enough for you not to break up with them
- deciding that something doesn't work means it's okay to break up and not think you have to fix it
- if someone is deaf to your feelings and uses words or comments that upset you AFTER you have told them this, then they do not love you enough for you not to break up with them
- relationships do not need to be dramatic - in fact, good ones are marked by their lack of drama
- if you are intellectually, physically, sexually or mentally repulsed by someone to any degree, then throw that fish back in the sea.

Learning that stuff led to a lot of wasted time. Don't waste yours.
posted by mippy at 2:46 PM on February 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I've noticed this thing, generally among my younger, female friends (though I hesitate to generalize about this really being an issue with girls, only), who will say, when asked about why they love their boyfriends or partners or whatever, "he loves me so much!"

Whenever I hear this, an alarm goes off in my head, and I know that their relationship is doomed, because this is not what love is.

So: What I'm battling myself over is why don't I like him? He thinks I'm perfect, already says he loves me, takes me out, and compliments me... but yet I'm put off.

The alarm is screeching; this is not what love is.
You should go ahead and break things off. Also consider that good relationships don't actually hinge on whether or not someone likes you. It's about whether or not you each care for the other...among other things, natch.
posted by vivid postcard at 4:52 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I'm battling myself over is why don't I like him?

Doesn't matter. Even if all the stuff you mention were magically resolved--the cluelessness, the obnoxious habits, the unmanaged/untreated ADD and anxiety, etc.--you still might not like him and that's ok.

There are going to be lots of decent, attractive, interesting people who seem, on paper, to be an absolutely perfect match for you. But you won't like them. And you don't need to figure out why. That's just how chemistry works: when it's not there, it's just not there.

If it makes you feel better, you can consider all of the valid reasons you've pointed out in this thread for not liking him: he lacks adult life skills, he's rude and insensitive toward you and people you love, sex with him is not fun, and so on. But really, the only reason you need to end things is just: you don't like him, it's not working, and it's time for you to move on.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:20 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alright, I know what I should do I just feel guilty to do it. Although at the same time I'm very confident I have good reasons why he rubs me the wrong way. Even if I have resentment towards wealthy people... honestly I just dislike the inequality of American society. In a sense, I don't really care for our "individualism" but that's not to say I'm some sort of socialist. Besides that, I don't march up to his family and say what I think of them with no regard to their feelings. Or to him. I don't mention it. I know better. So there is a difference between our "issues." I just don't think wealth is necessarily good. I don't flaunt it, he does. I don't think I will ever respect people like that and why should I? No, I am not dating him to look down on him. I liked him at first, a lot. Then I heard what came out of his mouth.
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 6:35 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to figure out why you are compelled to do this kind of thing to yourself.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:55 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are two issues here. Regarding the first, I think it's pretty clear that he's not a good match for you. You've been dating a matter of weeks -- it's rare to find longer term happiness with someone who agitates you so greatly so early in the relationship. It's a wonder more people don't apply Metafilter's "Flag and move on" to early dating relationships, but that's what I'd advise. You're different people, you don't feel a grand passion, and you think you both want different things from life. Flag and move on. The sooner you do so, the sooner you can both be happy.

Regarding the second issue (for everyone else, as well as your intellectual curiosity), I think some people here are missing the fact that this man is not an "idiot" (geez, cmoj!) and ADD/ADHD is, at best, only part of the story. This is textbook executive function disorder. If he were older (i.e,. older than 50) and these were new symptoms (all of which seem to be related to memory and cognitive processing), we'd suggest referring someone to a medical professional for cognitive testing (to look for signs of early onset dementia, TIA/mini-strokes, etc.), but because he's so young, this is likely something with which he's been struggling since childhood. Executive function disorders exist on a spectrum, but all of the things you've described (except the issues regarding relative wealth) could be explained by EFD.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 8:14 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're making this bigger than it actually is. You don't like him, so you break up with him.
posted by mleigh at 10:47 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another voice here telling you not to date someone you don't like, for whatever reason you don't like them. This guy sounds like he sucks. He doesn't deserve you.
posted by fuq at 8:35 AM on February 15, 2012

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